Grand Cru Echezeaux is mythical and rare, and in the right hands can reach near perfection. Intense and alive with black cherry and cocao, it is fine and velvety and finishes on dark bitter chocolate. The vineyard is relatively new to the Maison Capitain, but their long experience with a classy holding in the Clos Vougeot puts them in the neighborhood. It's a jewel in the Capitain crown. Never a hesitation!
Anybody who has followed us since our start in early 1996 knows the Maison Capitain-Gagnerot in Ladoix-Serrigny. We have seen three generation now. Roger Capitain was our first mentor in Burgundy, and we learned our craft leaning against a wine barrel, soaking up his wisdom and discussing his inimitable wines. His sons Patrice and Michel, and now Patrice's son Pierre Francois (the whole family, really), carry on a tradition that is most easily described as a style. There is no mistaking a Capitain wine. Once you know it, you can pick one out just in the bouquet. It's a purity. And it's our benchmark in Burgundy.
BURGUNDY 2017 VINTAGE
If 2016 tested the faith and resolve of wine makers in Burgundy, 2017 has to be seen as recompense, and as a miracle of sorts. While the rest of wine-growing Europe suffered crippling late-spring frosts in 2017, Burgundy for the most part (for once!) survived.
A mild winter and an accelerated spring left the Burgundy vineyards in a vulnerable position when, in the second half of April, temperatures across France barely rose above freezing for two weeks.
Three hard-frost nights pretty much did in Right Bank Chablis once again. But as the rest of Burgundy survived the first week, the growers found the will to fight back. And on the night of April 27th, a year and a day after the 2016 frost that took 80% of the 2016 harvest, a severe frost was forecast for the length of the Cote d’Or.
It’s now a part of local legend how, on the following morning, we awoke in a thick cloud of smoke. In the early hours, from north to south, the vignerons had mobilized to set alight dampened bales of hay, sending up a cloud cover to filter the first burning rays of dawn. And it worked.
The air was thick, and driving was tricky. A customer at the butcher shop in Meursault jokingly asked for a smoked chicken. And, of course, the authorities were up in arms over the pollution risks. But the crop was saved, and there has been ever since a spirit of cooperation and solidarity not often seen in farming communities.
After the freeze, May brought in an extended period of warm dry weather. No mildew or oidium to speak of, no thunderstorms or hail. Sunny periods, but no lack of rain. And the vines went in to flower at a very-normal first week of June. Pretty much ideal.
July had a couple of heat spikes, and a hailstorm hit the fancy vineyards in Morey St Denis on the 10th. But nothing worse. August was warm; the lead up to the harvest at the end of the month, hot and dry.
The first grapes were picked in the Cote de Beaune in the last few days of August. And most everyone was out picking in the first week of September.
There was (as there often is in Burgundy) serious disagreement in 2017 about when to pick. Do you pick early to preserve the acid-sugar balance and freshness? Or do you hang in there and wait for a little rain to kick-start a stalled photosynthesis, and thereby achieve the holy grail of phenolic maturity?
It’s hard to say who was right. There are very good wines coming from both camps. But there are iffy wines too. And that’s the key to understanding 2017.
Picked early, the best wines, both red and white, are fresh, fruit-driven and floral with long minerality. The iffy wines seem not have adjusted for the solid levels of tartaric acid which left them tart rather than bright, dry and tannic rather than juicy.
Picking late did not seem to have an effect on the balance between alcohol and acidity. But then, there was no ‘over maturity’ in 2017. The extra phenolic maturity seems to mean more density and riper tannins, with no sign of flabbiness.
The whites shine, particularly in hard-done Chablis (where there is better balance even than the marvelous 2014s). In the rest of Burgundy, the whites have the tension of 2014 but the open flattery of 2015.
The reds are juicy and crisp and open, and the regional appellations will be ready to drink soon. More serious appellations will be considered ‘typical’, in the best sense of the word: classic wines from a vintage that Burgundians will love. They are likely to be lost in the hub-bub that the 2018s will bring. But the yields were good in 2017, so you will be able to find them for a while. And you’ll do well to seek them out.
ECHEZEAUX and GRANDS ECHEZEAUX
COTE DE NUITS
The village of Flagey-Échezeaux lies in the plain between Vougeot and Vosne-Romanée in the Côte de Nuits. Facing east, the Grands-Échezeaux vines are a prolongation of Musigny following the axis of the Côte. At the bottom end, the Combe d'Orveau separates them from Musigny. The Échezeaux vineyards divide the Clos de Vougeot from the premiers crus vines of Vosne-Romanée. Like the Clos de Vougeot (from which they are separated only by a wall), these vineyards were founded by the monks of the abbey of Cîteaux and date from the 12th and 13th centuries.
Producing commune: Flagey-Echezeaux.
Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux are red wines only. Generally ruby in color, with darker purpley tones in youth. Classic Cote de Nuits spice and undergrowth aromas, with concentrated plum notes, almost prune, that evolve as musky, leathery and mushroomy. When young it is floral with fresh fruit cherry. These wines can be dense and tight to start out, giving way as the tannins soften (usually 4-5 years) to full round flavors.
Geologically jurassic, the Grands Echezeaux vineyards are fairly homogeneous and lie close to the upper part of the Clos de Vougeot at 250 meters and on a slight gradient. The soil is clay-limestone overlying bajocien limestone. The Échezeaux climats have more diverse soils (largely bajocien marls with pebbly overlay). Altitudes vary from 230 to a little over 300 meters with a 13% gradient at mid-slope. The upper slope soil is deep (70-80 cm). Gravel, red alluvium and yellow marl make up a complex sub-soil.
Red wines only - Pinot Noir
Production surface area :
Area under production* :
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Echezeaux : 34.79 ha
Grands Echezeaux : 7.53 ha
Wines so full and powerful should be served with full and powerful dishes. Autumnal and winter dishes of game and roast meats will match the meatiness of these wines. Soft-centered cows' milk cheeses will work well.
On the label, the words Grand Cru must appear directly below the name of either appellation in letters of exactly the same size.
The following specific vineyards, known as climats, are classified as Echezeaux Grand Cru:
Echézeaux du Dessus
Les Beaux Monts Bas (partly premier cru)
Les Champs Traversins
Les Cruots ou Vignes Blanches
Les Quartiers de Nuits
Les Rouges du Bas